Platform-Style Video Games with Construct

Game Design and Project Overview

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This video introduces the MDA (mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics) framework for designing and analyzing video games, and then uses the MDA framework to describe “Jumping Jack”, the video game that will be created in this video series.


  • Game Design
  • Framework
  • Mechanics
  • Dynamics
  • Aesthetics

About this video

Lee Stemkoski
First online
15 February 2019
Online ISBN
Copyright information
© Lee Stemkoski 2019

Video Transcript

Lee Stemkoski: In this video, we’ll be talking about a framework which enables us to succinctly and clearly describe our game. We’ll be talking about a framework called the Mechanics/Dynamics/Aesthetics framework, and then we’ll use this to describe the video game that we’ll be creating in this series, a platform-style game called Jumping Jack.

Game design frameworks provide a structured approach to game design and analysis. It provides a way to think about your game, to sort the different features into categories and it will help organize and plan the game as we develop it. There are many different frameworks you could use to describe a video game. In this project, we’ll be using one of the first frameworks ever proposed called the MDA framework. That’s an acronym for Mechanics/Dynamics/Aesthetics. It was first described by Hunicke, LeBlanc, and Zubek in 2004.

First, the Mechanics category includes all the internal rules of the game world. This includes the main character, how they can move around the screen, interact with the environment, any items or obstacles such as enemies. The second category is the Dynamics. This includes how the player interacts with the game. For example, the controls used by the player to control the character. This includes anything which conveys information directly to the player such as the user interface or any window or menu systems. The third category is Aesthetics. This category includes those elements which most directly influenced the player’s experience of the game. This includes visual aspects such as the graphics or special effects, animations, the audio aspects such as sound effects, background music or ambient sounds and the narrative. This could include backstory or story that unfolds as the game progresses, any character development. And finally, the psychological aspects, the feeling that the game tries to evoke in the players.

Jumping Jack, this is a platform-style game as we’ve mentioned before, inspired by classics such as the Super Mario Brothers series created by the Nintendo. In this game, Jack, a koala has the goal of trying to reach a flag representing the end of the level. The mechanics for this game. First, let’s describe Jack’s abilities. Jack is able to walk to the left and right and jump–key abilities of any character in a platform game. Jack can also collect items to help him out along the way. These include coins, hearts, clocks, and keys. Jack is also able to jump or fall through special platforms. Jack’s jump height increases if he jumps off of special springboards. Jack is also able to destroy part of the level. He can break bricks by jumping from underneath and colliding with them and Jack can also destroy enemies by jumping on top of them.

Any game requires a set of obstacles to introduce some challenge to prevent the player from easily reaching their goal. In this case, the flag. The obstacles that Jack will encounter include a limited amount of time. Jack only has a few minutes to reach the end of each level. There’ll be a number of hazards such as spikes and enemies, including a fly and a slime which moved back and forth. And each one of these will reduce Jack’s health if he comes into contact with him. If Jack’s health ever reaches zero, then the game is over. Another obstacle will be a series of bricks which can be destroyed to open up passage to other parts of the level and locks for which Jack must collect the key in order to progress past them.

Along the way, Jack will encounter various items that can be collected including coins, which are the scoring mechanism. They provide points to the player. Jack and collect hearts to restore health in case he gets damaged by an obstacle. Jack can collect clocks which increased the amount of time left in order to reach the goal and Jack can collect keys which enable him to progress past the different locks which bar his progress in the level.

The dynamics for this game are relatively simple and straight forward. The player will use the keyboard including the arrow keys and the space bar to move Jack throughout the level. The user interface will display how many coins Jack has collected, the total amount of health Jack has and how many seconds remained to complete the level and there will be a menu system included to explain what the controls are for the game, including a button to start the game.

Finally, we should discuss the aesthetics of this game. If it’s intended for casual gameplay, it’s a very simple game. You can just jump in and play. It’s going to have very bright colors and bright music and sounds for relaxing, exploratory feel. We’ll also be paying special attention to the visual and audio effects every time Jack interacts with a different object in the world. For example, we’ll have different colored sparkle effects and sounds when items are collected. We’ll have different explosion effects and sounds whenever he defeats an enemy. When destroying a brick, we’ll introduce a particle effect to make it appear as though it’s shattering into pieces. And once Jack collects a key, the locks will fade out every time he unlocks one of the corresponding blocks. And we’ll have more visual effects too. Those are very important to provide a solid game play.

So that’s a brief description of the game we’re about to create. Now that we have that in mind, we’re ready to create our game.